Hitting The Streets On Christmas

I had an exciting experience today.  It’s Christmas, December 25th, and I’m in Quebec City.  Our average December high temperatures are 15-16F.   But I got a spiffy new pair of gloves for Christmas and I decided to give them a test drive.  There is no snow on the ground here, which is almost a miracle. but what definitely is a miracle is that it’s over 40F here today, or 25-degrees above normal.  It was warmer yesterday 🙂

And so, though my purpose was to take a walk, I couldn’t resist the thrill of doing a street sketch on Christmas day.  I sat on a bench at the edge of a park and drew this little sketch of a gate across the street.  The sketch is trivial and yet incredibly significant to me at the same time.  Outdoor sketching on Christmas; who’da thunk it?

Xmas Day sketch

Stillman & Birn Alpha softcover, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Thursday Museum Sketching Group

Some of us in Quebec City have met at our Musee de la Civilisation for a while now, sometimes on Tuesday, sometimes Thursday, and sometimes both days, but we seem to be making the Thursday morning meetings a regular event, mostly due to emails sent out by Claudette to let us know what day we’re supposed to show up.

These sessions are really fun and quite different from a typical sketchcrawl.  Rather than an all day affair, these are only two to three hours.  We sketch for most of that time but then meet in the cafe for coffee/tea and to talk about drawing.  If we’re lucky we can get Yvan talking as he always teaches us something interesting about drawing.  Mostly, though, it’s just a regular, fun get together that keeps us all in touch and yet doesn’t require the commitment of an entire day.

At the last session I drew this Egyptian musical instrument called a sistrum, or at least that’s what the sign said it was.  I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work or what sounds it makes but I suspect it’s sort of like a tamborine and that you shake it.  I suspect there are supposed to be wires running through the other sets of holes.  In any case, it’s a paradox of simple, rusted strap-metal with small, carved characters stuck onto it.  Very interesting shapes to draw.

Egyptian musical instrument

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I wandered around, had a conversation with Claudette and knew I was running out of time.  Claudette had shown me her sketch of this little guy so I sat down and did this quick drawing of him, or her.  Hard to tell with otters.

Egyptian river otter statue

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Right now, there are eight of us who are regulars at Thursday Sketching Group.  We won’t be meeting Christmas Eve day and probably not New Years Eve day, but otherwise, why don’t you come out and join us.  You’ll have fun.  I guarantee it.

Sketchcrawl at Pavilion Laurentienne

In what seems a recurrent theme, I’m way behind in blogging.  Maybe it’s the season, or maybe I’m just slowing down.  It was a week ago that we held our monthly sketchcrawl, this time at Pavilion Laurentienne, which is a building on the Université Laval campus.  They have a series of statues and they were our targets.  I missed them entirely, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule and since it wasn’t bitter cold (probably 38F) I decided to try to do a quick sketch of the building entrance.  While probably not the right format, I decided to do it in my new, 3×5 softcover Stillman & Birn sketchbook.  I sketched it quickly but even so, I was pretty cold by the time I finished so I didn’t add any color until I got warmed up inside.

Stillman & Birn Alpha 3x5, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha 3×5, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Once inside there was the normal meet and greet that starts most of our sketchcrawls.  We ended up with eight people and the day was really fun.  Everybody but me was sketching statues but I was into ‘testing’ my new sketchbook so I continued with the tiny format.  Instead of statue sketching, I began to draw fellow sketchers.

Andre Gagnon was my first subject.  He’s not only a really fun guy, he’s a wonderful artist.  This day he was doing some fantastic work with a white pencil on black paper.

As I did this sketch I thought about testing something I thought of after I did the review of the Stillman & Birn softcovers.  Since the Alpha paper buckles slightly if you use a lot of water, I wondered how not having a hardcover would affect how the book would close.  With the hardcovers the buckling isn’t a problem as it happens as the sketch dries and once the cover is closed, the paper tends to flatten out.  So, as I added color to Andre, I really dumped a lot of water onto the paper.  In fact, it was too much for me to manage as I’m mostly ignorant of wet-n-wet techniques.

Andre Gagnon

I continued these little sketches, avoiding the statues for the day.  Here’s one I did of Yvan Breton, artist extraordinaire, who I consider both mentor and friend.  Note the “easel” he’s using.  It’s hung around his neck, very portable, and it can be used whether standing or sitting.  We’ve sort of jointly been improving the design and I’ll do a blog post about it “real soon” (which means I have no idea when I’ll get to it).  Again, I went heavy on the water as I wanted several pages that had been abused badly.

Yvan BretonThere’s one thing I noticed from my sketches that day.  I made everyone much fatter than they really are.  I wonder if they’re going to speak to me after I post these.  We’ll see.

After lunch Yvan started drawing a fig tree that was in the atrium.  He said it was hard to capture without adding all the details and I quipped (it’s easy to advise if you don’t have to take the advise), “Just draw it in two minutes and you’ll figure out how to do it.”

Unfortunately, my brain was listening and it decided that I was going to draw the tree quickly.  I exceeded “two minutes” by an order of magnitude but I did draw it fairly quickly, leaving out much of the detail.  I used watercolor pencils to color this one.

Fig treeAt this point we wrapped up the sketchcrawl and some of us headed for the bus stop.  Yvan and I ended up on the same bus and he started drawing a woman he could see in front of him.  She had a bright red hat that was an eye-catcher but I couldn’t really see her face because of a “thingie” that blocked my view.  I drew her anyway, or at least her hat.  This was done in a Field Notes book and thus the gridded paper.

2015-12-13busOh yeah…my watercolor/softcover experiment.  The paper holds up better than it should for a 100lb paper, but those of us who use S&B Alpha paper have come to expect that.   And I think I’m correct to be a bit more concerned about these softcovers staying closed after soaking pages with watercolor.  It’s not a big deal but as there’s no weight to the cover, it simply won’t squish the paper flat.  But, I now carry it with a rubber band wrapped around it and all is well.  I may even install a more typical closure band if I can ever get caught up on the blogging (grin).

 

Egyptian Burial Urns

I was introduced to Egyptian burial practices in the usual place – a romantic comedy called The Mummy.  The bad guy was dead, but his lover was determined to bring him back to life.  They entered the place where the mummy was buried and next to it were several urns and we were told they contained the organs of the guy in the sarcophagus.  Getting the romantic adventure comedy yet?  I guess you had to be there.

Anyways, some of the most artifacts in our museum’s Egyptian exhibit is a set of these urns.  I’d been avoiding them because I knew that when I did them I’d have to draw all four at once and because I draw at a rate slower than glaciers and snails, I knew it would take me a while.  But the time came and the deed is done.

I shaded them with light blue, which seems a mistake as my scanner isn’t subtle in its treatment of light blue and so some of the shading was lost in translation.  Doesn’t matter, though, these were fun to draw.

Egyptian burial urns

Stillman & Birn Delta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

It’s Winter – Gone Fishing

I knew it couldn’t last. I was forever hopeful but our balmy low 40s (F) December has come to an end with freezing rain.  Oh well, I’m way behind in my blogging anyway.

Last week I met the gang at the museum but I decided to give the Egypt exhibit a break from me and sat down instead in front of a fishing exhibit.  Seems there was a prominent Canadian ethnologist by the name of Richard Gauthier who a day job in the field, but his hobby was fishing and the study of fishing practices in Canada. To that end he amassed a large collection of old fishing equipment.  We’ve been blessed with a small exhibit of some of these fishing artifacts and they’re great sketching subjects.

I started with Richard’s hat.  I have much to learn about the use of watercolor pencils to achieve tonal gradation but here’s my rendition of his hat.

Stillman & Birn Delta (5.5x8.5), Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (5.5×8.5), Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

When I finished with the hat I got up and wandered around the museum.  Half of it has been closed due to a fire that took place in early summer (construction guys seem prone to burn things down as they try to build them up) and I wanted to have a look at what it looked like now that that wing of the building was open again.

I spent so much time doing my walkabout that by the time I got back the other sketchers were nearly finished for the day.  I did this quick sketch of a fishing scale as they finished up.  You know what they say, “A bad day fishing is better than most other days.”  I think that applies to sketching as well.

fishing scale

Stillman & Birn Delta (5.5×8.5), Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black